Sunday, July 09, 2006

Eat Local Challenge: First Week in Review

The easiest and most exciting thing in the last week has been limiting my cooking to local foods. With a fridge full of local dairy, fruits and vegetables, and a freezerful of local meat, plus a handful of nice local specialty items (maple syrup, dried tomatoes), I've been able to put together some pretty damned fine meals. I've made a lovely whole-wheat (from Maine) crust pizza with pesto and the first available local (hothouse) tomatoes, plus mozzarella from Vermont (Maplebrook Farms, Bennington, VT, 145 miles). I've made Gray's Gristmill cornbread, a weird recipe that uses only beaten eggs for lift and makes a dense, moist bread that I disliked at first, but came to appreciate. I made crockpot pulled pork (I know, and yes, some bits can be a little mushy, but I have no grill) with Vermont apple cider. I ate a lot of simple salads of lettuce, radishes, scallions and sprouts. some enhanced with leftover slices of roast beef. Strawberries were consumed in every possible dairy product - with yogurt, with whipped cream, and in smoothies with milk. I've eaten more vegetables than usual, which is saying something. I've felt an altogether unlikely level of excitement about finding something new at the farmers' market - "hey, carrots! Wow! You have carrots! That's great!!!!" And, amazingly enough, I've spent less on food than usual, because I have not been buying two coffees each day, or an afternoon cookie, or breakfast out. This is all good, and I intend to keep it up.

But I'm lessening the restrictions somewhat. I've found that not allowing for some time spent sitting in cafes or bars is limiting my social life. I have to keep saying "no" in a way that I found frustrating - not just to myself, which is hard enough, but to my guy and my friends, which feels terrible. I remembered how liberating it was to stop being a vegetarian, to be able to go to any restaurant at all and have eating options, not to be such a drag, always fussing over what I couldn't eat. The one things I disliked this week was not having the freedom to go stop while out and about in the city to have a glass of wine or lemonade with J.

So, for the rest of the month, I am allowing for "off-site beverages." All food, all meals are still to be consumed at home (with my original "people over projects provision" - I'm going to eat at M.'s barbecue). But I can have a drink when I'm out if I want to.

It's strange how powerful the idea of purity is for me. I think it's the Catholic upbringing. It was hard for me to decide to relax my standards; it felt like quitting or cheating or something. Clearly, I'm not the only one; at the Eat Local Challenge site, several articles discuss the important questions like "are spices okay?" But this week I had an interesting talk on another topic that touched on this idea with my friend A., a lovely, wise Hungarian gentleman of my acquaintance who is in his seventies. We were discussing a friend who can be a bit of a perfectionist, and I was explaining that he wouldn't see himself as a perfectionist, but only as trying to be "good enough." To which A. replied, "Ah, what is good enough in this world? There's so many terrible things. Just to try is enough." A. has lived through more than I hope I will ever see of the horrors of the world. I think when he speaks, I should listen.

I'll have to be far from perfect this week anyway. I have two staff lunches at work I have to attend, and I have a surprise trip I have to take, for a special secret reason to be possibly revealed later, depending on outcome.

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